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My Producer’s Article

The Most Interesting Amish Man in the World

 

Sometimes, I look on in envy at other TV producers. When they cast for a lot of their shows, they can put up postings on Web sites, they can hold open calls or hire casting directors, or people will submit tapes. And certainly, whenever I have made shows like that, I have been able to use those resources and see the benefits. It doesn’t make those shows easier to produce, but casting for them essentially becomes more about sorting through options until you find the best people to put on the show.

But for better and for worse, I specialize in doing projects about subcultures, such as Amish: Out of Order on the National Geographic Channel and the upcoming American Gypsies, also for Nat Geo. Usually, my projects are about people who don’t apply to be on TV; they are about people who we have to search for, who avoid the spotlight, who aren’t always readily accessible. They aren’t easy to find, and when you find them, quite frankly, they aren’t always that TV friendly.

Daniel Laikind, Producer of Amish: Out of Order

There is a reason why there aren’t dozens of TV shows about the Amish the same way there are dozens of dating shows, or shows about housewives. Finding anyone Amish or ex-Amish to appear on camera is as hard as hell. It took us three years to make Devil’s Playground, nearly a year of which was spent just finding anyone on rumspringa to appear in the film. The casting process we used for Amish in the City was just as challenging. We hired five teams of two to live in different Amish communities around the country for two months at a time and embed themselves in those communities
to get to know the town, understand the unique areas (because, as we discussed last week, no two Amish communities are alike) and make sure that the local bishops and elders knew that we had positive intentions.

Our casting teams were required to go through an “Amish boot camp” to learn about the culture, to know how to approach people without causing undue attention or panic. Each team had to send home a daily journal of their activities, positive and negative, so that the other teams could learn from their experiences. We called it the “A.D.U.”: Amish Daily Update. After nearly two months of this, we had found a handful of Amish who were willing to appear on the show, which we thought would make for a great and thought-provoking series. But we just didn’t have enough. We were still missing one character, someone who really could be the anchor of the show. We were missing our star.

Just then, one of our casting producers sent us back a tape of an unlikely TV character. We popped the tape in, and were introduced to a man named Mose Gingerich — and we found the missing piece.

In general, most Amish are taught to accept what God places before them, so while there is certainly a lot of internal struggle, it’s rare to find Amish who outwardly question their place in the world. Even those Amish who leave the faith usually do so with more of a stoic acceptance than a spirited debate. This mindset may be good for them as individuals, but it doesn’t always make for the most captivating moments to watch as an audience. Yet Mose Gingerich was and is unlike any other Amish or ex-Amish person that I have ever met. On that first tape, Mose didn’t do much more than show us a puzzle that he had made, and a homemade fire engine that he had built while he was Amish — but he had a quality that was rare. Mose asked questions. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know what was out there and he wanted to know why. The subject didn’t matter; whether it was how something worked or why God chose his path, Mose didn’t accept anything for what it was. He asked questions, and when he was given answers they led him to form new questions. This didn’t always sit well with his Amish community, but when he appeared on the show it struck a deep and resonant cord.

When Amish in the City premiered to record ratings, Mose became a surprise star. An Amish man with a strange accent and a stranger name, an inquisitive attitude but a wry sense of humor, allowed the audience to see Amish people in an entirely different light. Mose had never been on a plane, never ridden an escalator and never swum in the ocean. But his wonder and fascination with these things allowed all of us to truly see and appreciate our society in a new light.

Mose was also able to articulate these feelings and excitement in ways that other Amish often struggle with. The Amish are taught to be humble, and they don’t often speak about themselves, so Mose’s ability and desire to talk about his feelings was unique.

Instantly, the public latched onto him. Mose was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s “Breakout Stars of the Year.” He appeared on Good Morning America and was interviewed by Diane Sawyer. He went on Regis and Kelly, Jimmy Kimmel Live and countless radio shows. Everyone wanted to talk to the Amish guy. There was even an NBC show that was in the process of writing its first season, and one of the writers kept coming into the writers’ room and doing his “impression” of Mose. Everyone loved his impression so much that they insisted that he create a character out of it. And that’s how Mose Schrute, Dwight’s beet-farming cousin on The Office, was created. Michael Schur (@Kentremendous), who is now the executive producer of Parks and Recreation, was the writer and actor who played Mose.

Each new experience on the show and in life brought Mose a sense of wonder, but also one of conflict. It drew him further away from his family and made it less and less likely that he would ever go back to the Amish life he grew up with. For Mose, this wasn’t just a decision to leave town. Everything that he had been taught said that not being Amish meant that he would spend the rest of his life in hell.

The series ended and the attention died down, but Mose’s struggle didn’t end. It grew. He knew that the Amish life wasn’t for him. He had many goals that he wanted to accomplish, but he also had a past that he couldn’t fully leave behind. He settled in Columbia, Mo., where he and a number of other ex-Amish helped turn the area into a safe place for other ex-Amish — a town where they can live with one foot in the Amish world and one foot in the English world, and where they can meet other people who are also struggling with this journey.

Yet Mose’s personal struggle didn’t end there. He met a wonderful woman, Shana, and married and now has a great family. He also has a successful career, first running a construction company and now as one of the top car salesmen in town (yes, a man who grew up with a horse and buggy now sells cars — as I’ve said, Mose Gingerich is the most interesting Amish man alive). However, he still has a thirst to learn more, to help others and find his own true happiness.

One of the reasons why I developed and produced this show was because I wanted to watch more of Mose. Even though he and I had stayed in touch, hearing him on the phone wasn’t enough. I wanted to produce the show so that I could see once again what Mose was doing, to see him on TV experiencing new things, asking the questions that so few people ask and opening himself up to an audience.

Over the next few weeks, Amish: Out of Order goes to some amazing and challenging places. This week, a young Amish man gets into a terrible car accident, and the ex-Amish in Columbia rally around him. But most interestingly, it once again causes Mose Gingerich to ask questions: to wonder why the Amish use these events as a sign from God, and whether the ex-Amish can use this tragedy to strengthen their community. He asks if maybe it is time to start to repair his fractured relationship with the Amish and his own Amish family. This event causes the series to take a dramatic turn that we follow over the rest of the season. Strap yourselves in, because once Mose Gingerich — the Most Interesting Amish Man in the World — starts asking questions and stirring the pot, you never know what trouble it’s going to cause….

So yes, honestly, I sometimes wish that my subculture shows were easier to make and that they didn’t always have to take years to produce, and maybe I could just put out a casting call and have unlimited people to chose from, But here’s a little secret. I know the truth. All those other producers, when they are sifting through their hundreds and hundreds of submissions and watching casting tape after casting tape, are ultimately looking for a character just like Mose. So even though our process may take longer, and I shudder to think about how lucky we were to find him, in the end the result was pretty perfect.

The Most Interesting Amish Man in the World Daniel Laikind is the co-founder and president of development and production of Stick Figure Productions. If you have ever seen any nonfiction about the Amish, there is a good chance he produced it, as he did Amish: Out of Order, currently airing on National Geographic Channel, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. He also developed, produced or executive produced lots of really interesting non-Amish projects that you can read about on his website. And despite being nominated for a bunch of prestigious awards, he has never won any of them, and yes, he is a little bitter about it. He was born, raised and currently resides on the small island of Manhattan, and you can follow his scattered musings on the world of TV, film, pop culture and his Derek Jeter obsession on Twitter (@dlaik1) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/dlaik1).

20 thoughts on “My Producer’s Article”

  1. Having been raised in a denomination very similar to Amish/Mennonite, this show resonates with me. Very well done. I think the show is fair and respectful. I would love to meet Mose and the folks there in Columbia. Good job!

  2. You can tell that being told he is going to hell for leaving the Amish weighs heavily on Mose, and that he hates it when it happens to others in his community.

    A former Amish man from a similar group here in Ohio made an interesting observation today. He said, “If you ask them if they are going to heaven, they consistently reply that they hope they will, but they can’t be totally sure.” Then he noted, “If they are so uncertain about whether they are going to heaven, how is it that they are so very sure that I am going to hell?” Good question!

      1. I don’t know the man’s name. Never seen him before. He told me he was ex-Amish from Ashland County and we struck up a conversation about Amish Out of Order. I think he said something about being affiliated with a ministry called Mission to Amish People or something like that.

        But you have my persmission to use it if that helps. :)

  3. Hello Mose, i love the show, and you are an admirable and caring man.
    I came from a group many years ago that also declared themselves to be gods one and only true church.. that can be a tough transition for sure.
    I came to realize that Jesus Christ doesn’t help us to be saved thru our own goodness… but rather we are saved thru faith in him.( it took me years to accept this, though it is found thoughout scripture and taught in Christian history back to Biblical times. It was a liberating trueth to me , after being taught all of my ex-sects laws and rules.
    Another here also:
    We are called to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We are not to withdraw and separate ourselves from those who most need to hear the gospel.
    I wish you and yours all the best in life.

  4. Hallsy, that really is an excellent question. If one cannot speak in absolutes about their own destiny, how on Earth can they do that very thing in regards to someone else’s? Thank you!

    1. One thing you come to understand about the low Amish groups is that their beliefs are largely based on tradition, not on scripture – and what scripture they do refer to often involves a torture of the context.

      For example, they say that no one can know that they are going to heaven, but I Jn 5:13 says “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” In Romans Paul tells us that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. So, the Bible says you can know for sure.

      Over and over again in scripture the dividing line between eternal life and eternal death/hell is given as faith in Christ. This simple concept is presented dozens of times in the first few chapters of the Gospel of John alone. See John 3:16, 36.

      No where will you find that if you leave the Amish church, or any church, that you will go to hell. I have to believe that the primary reason for this tactic is simply to provide intense psycholical,emotional, and spiritual pressure on Amish people to stay put. I’ve always been cautious about saying any Amish group is a cult, but this tactic is certainly cult-like or cultish.

  5. I happened to stumble upon this show last week and found it amazing. It was good to see Mose again, esp since I watched Amish in the City years ago and always wondered what happened to such a truly interesting human being. Now I know. Mose, since I live near Lancaster which is rich in Amish people and culture (and having Pa Dutch heritage in my family), I’ve always kept you in prayers that you would find a place and peace, esp if you left the Amish. Tonight’s episode where you read the one letter just floored me. I’ve been raised in the Catholic faith, joined a Methodist church and appreciate other belief systems so it pained me to see the concern yet ‘scare tactics’ to make you think about rejoining. I’ve learned that God gives us free will and I believe He also wants us to be as He created us. I would argue that you are doing just that, being the best He made you to be and helping reach out to others, which in my books counts for a lot (esp in this day and age….) Anyway, I will continue to watch and be thankful for such a thought provoking and truly well done show and for continued success in all you do and those you help, Mose. Blessings to you and yours…

  6. My mom and I watched Mose in Amish in the City years ago and Mose was our favorite character. His quiet wisdom, his curiosity, his sterling character deeply impressed us. We never forgot him. Over the years we wondered how he was doing and now we are so glad to find him thriving and happy. We love Mose and watch every week to see what good he brings to the world. I hope he continues on T.V. as people need to have a hero that is doing good and has good character and a benevolent soul. Too much on T.V. shocks us, horrifies us and brings us down. Mose, I think you were put on earth to lift us up. Please keep it up… we know you will, it is your nature!

  7. Hello Mose, I just wanted to let you know that I found it disturbing that you feel or think you are going to hell! You may have lost your parents religion, but you have gained and live your own faith. To my mind religion is the kindergarten of faith;there comes a time when you leave your religion and LIVE your faith. I too was raised a Catholic, now, I live my faith. I hope this makes sense to you as I don’t verbalize very well. Keep up the good work, and may God continue to bless you and yours.

    1. The way I see religion: I dont follow a structured religion. The country I come from is very spiritually inclined. I believe that heave and hell are all here on earth. One experiences the goods and bads here on earth.

  8. Hi Mose, my heart breaks for you to see you haven’ t the peace of knowing. This scrpture come to mind. “Now There is no condemnation for those who believe in Christ Jesus.” He paid our price at the cross all we have to do is believe. My mother was raised Catholic and found this freedom too when she went to a church that preached the new testament grace. Even the Jews & muslims struggle withe same questions as you. I Love the Amish life & would love to bring my son into there community just to get him pff meth and stay focused on working and family. It is hard for these addicts. I wish the amish could be open to an outreach like this. They have alot to offer this world and we have alot to leRn from them too aside from the law or religion. Oh wow, i have to go already! Love your show!

  9. Hello Moses,
    I am from New Delhi, the capital city of one of the biggest democracies in the world: India. I have been fascinated by the Amish people without even knowing much, except once I read that they dont use electricity. This was several years ago. so recently I was in the US and chanced about watching the program on NatGeo: Out of Order. well made, well researched and very well connected…all the thoughts were intertwined. Moses, the way you articulate your thoughts is amazing. i am touched. Daniel Laikind has done a great job. As a journalist back in my country, I could imagine how much work he must have put in this. Moses, I would like to know more about the Amish people, what happens to Jones, the kid who meets with a car accident. what happens to the boy in the Cage fight. All these are intriguing. This program doesnt air in India…so I will miss it. Thank You for being so honest about your culture, the ups/downs it makes it like a personal journey where most of us would like to join you. Huma

  10. my family who first came to the new world were friends with william penn henry burr and came to the philadelphia area both sides of the delaware river many years before the amish arrived i wonder if any one knows if the origunal division since so many english quakers lived as the present day amish do is how the original split between amish world and english arose of course they are greater differences among religions of the world today but back then one could not noticed much difference other than the original split in the pennsylvania due to city dwelling quakers and rural quakers follower of the rural believers were led by a man interestingly with last name of hicks imagine that name has stuck cause country people are still refered at times as hicks today

  11. i just wanted to say that i love the show amish out of the order…im addicted to it and watch it every week…ive always been fascinated with the amish community and their way of life…i was just wondering if there will be a season 2 to the show…i think that it would do great if there was

  12. Mose,
    I am a transporter, I have done this for 6 years. In this time I have seen and heard alot of things I know that I’m not suppose to know. I’m so thankful that you reach out and help these kids. They need someone to trust and be a family to them. The outside world can be very cruel. But their former way of life has had a bad affect too. I have made some really good friends that are amish, but they to are struggling with all the rules and regulations and burdens that are put upon them. Especially when they find out that they are being lied to. Being Amish is more a way of living instead of a religion. Because the Bishop don’t follow the bible. They follow man made traditions. Or the ones that they make up on their own. Which aren’t bible based. My hopes and prayers are that the ones that are up set with the way they are living,will find the strength and courage to be stronge like the young ones that seek you out for help. I know that they don’t leave because they have the fear of not being able to be or see their famlies. I know that it is devastating for the brave ones that have left. But they have gained another family, you and your wife and kids. I’m so thankful that you are there to help them. Please keep helping them. More and more of the young folk are so miserable, even the older ones. Our community around here is about half the size that it was 6 yrs. ago. They’re not happy with the way things work here in MO. Some of the middle aged ones are starting to think about their childrens futures and how hard it is going to be for them unless there are changes made. It is happening all over the Amish communities. Maybe it is going to take the young ones that leave to show them that something is wrong with the way that they are living their lives. Being seperate from the world means, don’t do the bad things that the wicked people do. Don’t become a drug addict,murderer,thief greedy person,fornicator,liar,drunkard and the list goes on. We may have to work and live in this world but we sure don’t have to act like the wicked people do. But most of all they need to build a relationship with GOD in order to know what he really and truly expects of them. Because they haven’t been taught the truth from the bible. So how would they no what was pleasing to GOD, the giver of life and the gift of ever lasting life that he offers mankind.
    Thank you again for helping the young and even older ones. I hope that you will be able to continue in the quest that you have started. You’re off to a good start. There is a definate need for counciling. To many non-truths that have been put into the minds, as scare tacts to try and hold on to them. Do some research, hell is the common grave. Man was formed out of the dust of the earth and GOD breathed the breath of life into him and man became a living soul. When he dies’ he returns to the dust of the ground and the breath of life goes out. Genesis chapter 3 verse 19 tells you where you return to. So does Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verses 5 and 10. Very easy to understand. It takes the fear away of burning in Hell, cause your body just decays and you return back to the dust of the earth. Isn’t that different than what they have been taught? Hope some of this can help. I look forward to seeing the next series, when ever you decide to film more.

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